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Any Major Albums of the Year: 1972

October 15th, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments

Once upon a time I thought, instinctively, that 1972 — 50 years ago! — represented an apex in the history of LPs. Last year, I was thoroughly disabused of that idea. The greatest year in LPs clearly was 1971. I was able to compile a Top 20 of 1971, and followed it up with another set of 20 albums which would qualify for inclusion in any other Top 20. And I saw fit to “recover” three albums from 1971 (Tapestry, What’s Going On and Blue). From 1972, I’ve revovered only one, Ziggy Stardust.

Still, 1972 was a great year for albums. I’ve arrived at a Top 20 with plenty “bubbling-under” albums which might even have justified a second volume. But what I’ll do is to tack on tracks from a couple of these “bubbling-under” albums which may be less well-known.

I ignored live albums and compilations; if I had, then Neil Diamond and Donny Hathaway might have been included. Hathaway features anyway, in duet with Roberta Flack. And, of course, such list are entirely subjective. The 20 featured albums are not the best of 1972 —but those I like the best.

The sequence of songs does not suggest a ranking, though the mix starts with a track from the year’s top album. I join the general consensus that Ziggy Stardust is the best album of 1972. My undisputed #2 would be Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together, an album that is a masterpiece of production, arrangement, instrumentation and vocal delivery. All that compensates for whatever deficiencies one may locate in some of the songwriting. At #3 I might place the Carpenters’ A Song For You, a set so full of superb pop songs that it almost looks like a Best Of collection.

One of the Top 20 albums is rather obscure. I discovered Tracks’ Even A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day album while researching the Any Major Roy Bittan mix. Tracks was the country-rock band which Bittan was a member of before the great keyboardist hooked up with Springsteen’s E Street Band. I ended up listening to the album on loop. It connected with me. Poco’s Jim Messina was the engineer on the album.

Also less known than is just are The Fabulous Rhinestones, whose co-frontman Kal David we lost in August. I wrote a bit about him in the In Memoriam for August 2022.

One album I battled with was the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. Releasing it as a double LP was an act of self-indulgence. If I want a fix of 1972 blues-rock, I can eat a peach. Half of the set is pretty much gratuitous rubbish. And even when it’s great, there is the hazard of Jagger sounding like he really needs a laxative. The only side I’d play without skipping a track is Side 2; maybe Side 4, too, but without much conviction. Only one track here, Tumblin’ Dice, would make it into my Stones Top 20. But in this age of playlists we no longer are hostage to bad sequencing and artistic incontinence. So if I rejig Exile on Main St., I get a very good album out of it. So it squeezes into my Top 20. I won’t use Tumblin’ Dice on this mix, nor Torn And Frayed — both are among the album’s best tracks but they’re shortlisted for other Any Major Mixes I’m lining up. Instead, I’m using one of the other great songs where Mick is in soulfully constipated mode.

There are a number of albums that failed to make the cut, but might have made it on another day. Bill Withers’ Still Bill leads that pack. Lyn Collins’s Think (About It) and From A Whisper To A Scream by Esther Philips (one of two great albums she released that year) were other agonising omissions. And then there is Ghettos Of The Mind by Bama the Village Poet, an astonishing poetry set-to-beats album. His soulful voice gives the penetrating words extra power. Tracks from the latter two are included as bonus tracks.

Also contending were Kris Kristofferson (Border Lord), Neil Young (Harvest), Van Morrison (Saint Dominic’s Preview), Mike James Kirkland (Doin’ It Right), Barry Ryan (Sanctus), Barbara Jean English (So Many Ways To Die), The O’Jays (Backstabbers and Ship Ahoy), Denise LaSalle (Trapped By A Thing Called Love), Little Feat (Sailing Shoes), The Rance Allen Group (Truth Is Where It’s At), War (The World Is A Ghetto), Marlena Shaw (Marlena), John Denver (Rocky Mountain High) and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Bands (Will The Circle Be Unbroken). I might also have considered Mike Nesmith’s Tantamount To Treason.

One might expect Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book to feature somewhere. I appreciate its place in the history of soul music, I have no cause to disagree with the critics who value it highly, and it obviously includes some killer tracks, but I just can’t love that album.

Another omission worth noting is John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Some Time In New York. I loved it as a teenager, when the political messages met my level of youthful sophistication. It turned me on to the Irish Troubles and to Angela Davis. When I watched Dog Day Afternoon for the first time, and Pacino screams “Attica”, I knew what he was shouting about. And I loved the faux-newspaper album cover. I was happy to ignore the second LP in the double-set, with the self-indulgent jam sessions, and gave the first two sides another listen. Alas, it’s not a very good album, musically or lyrically or artistically.

Any other year or week, Van Morrison’s St Dominic’s Preview might have merited inclusion in my Top 20. For the purposes of this post I listened to it again. It has glistening moment, but I got bored listening to it, except for the lovely Redwood Tree, and the long, intense Listen To The Lion, the album’s centrepiece. A one point Van goes for a bizarre impression of a stoned lion doing an imitation of an inebriated buffoon’s tactless mimicking of a gibbering idiot. A bit like the man today when he pontificates on Covid and other things of the contemporary world he just fails to understand.

These two mixes serve as good companions to Any Major Hits from 1972 Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and Any Major Soul 1972 Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and Any Major Soul 1972/73.

I’ll be intrigued to inspect the releases for 1973 for next year’s 50th anniversary Top 20. I have a hunch that year didn’t reach the heights of 1971-72.As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-ziggied covers and the above text in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments, where you can tell me your favourite albums of 1972 — who knows, I might have forgotten an essential one, or might (re)discover a new favourite…

1. David Bowie – Sufragette City (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars)
2. Big Star – The Ballad Of El Goodo (#1 Record)
3. Steely Dan – Only A Fool Would Say That (Can’t Buy A Thrill)
4. The Allman Brothers Band – Blue Sky (Eat A Peach)
5. The Fabulous Rhinestones – Living On My Own Time (The Fabulous Rhinestones)
6. Allen Toussaint – Soul Sister (Life, Love And Faith)
7. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – Be Real Black For Me (Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway)
8. Al Green – La-La For You (Let’s Stay Together)
9. Laura Lee – Women’s Love Rights (Women’s Love Rights)
10. Aretha Franklin – Rock Steady (Young, Gifted And Black)
11. Billy Paul – Am I Black Enough For You (360 Degrees Of Billy Paul)
12. Curtis Mayfield – Superfly (Superfly)
13. The Isley Brothers – Brother, Brother (Brother, Brother, Brother)
14. Carpenters – Hurting Each Other (A Song For You)
15. Elton John – Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (Honky Château)
16. Nick Drake – Pink Moon (Pink Moon)
17. Lou Reed – Satellite Of Love (Transformer)
18. Tracks – Anyway Anyhow (Even A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day)
19. The Rolling Stones – Shine A Light (Exile On Main St.)
20. Staple Singers – We The People (Be Altitude: Respect Yourself)
Bonus Tracks:
21. Esther Phillips – Home Is Where The Hatred Is (From A Whisper To A Scream)
22. Bama The Village Poet – I Got Soul (Ghettos Of The Mind)

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  1. amdwhah
    October 17th, 2022 at 21:37 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. whiteray
    October 18th, 2022 at 22:26 | #2

    I can’t complain about your choices, but a few others that I love from ’72 come to mind: David Ackles’ “American Gothic,” Eric Andersen’s “Blue River,” Jackson Brown’s self-titled debut, “Dr. John’s Gumbo,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Bare Trees,” the Moody Blues’ “Seventh Sojourn,” Earl Scruggs’ “I Saw The Light With Some Help From My Friends,” and Jesse Winchester’s “Third Down, 110 To Go.” It was a great year. not as great as the two preceding years, but still . . .

  3. rat-a-tat-tat
    October 19th, 2022 at 21:52 | #3

    Thx for your hard work. Makes a great companion to the two discs that you put together on 1971.

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